Breach of contract – that’s what it should be considered when a professional singer or any other vocal artist lip-synchs a live performance.

It’s only fair. Why should a client who goes into a contract with a famous vocal artist have to payout when the artist fails to deliver but instead brings along an audio recording of their singing to act out on stage?

Is that what they were hired for and is that even legal?

It should be called fraud, theft of services or illegal, self-impersonation.

Sounds crazy, right? I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know how these contracts are written up, but it seems to me the client and the audience are getting the short end of the stick when an artist fakes a live performance.

Think about it. You pay a half-million dollars to a top act vocalist like Mariah Carey or Beyoncé to sing at your presidential, Inaugural bash or your New Years Eve celebration in Times Square.

But what do you get instead? A con job. A recording of a studio production made at a previous point in time.

Isn’t that like karaoke?

It’s not quite the same as karaoke, but it’s close. In karaoke, you are acting out a part. You are making believe you are the singer. When a vocalist lip-synchs they are pretending they are singing.

But is that why they got paid? Of course not. When they agree to appear in person and sing live on stage, they are not getting paid to act like they are singing.

Oh, that’s nonsense, a lot of people will say, THEY ALL DO IT. Yes, some do, and that’s only because they have been able to get away with it. Maybe if their clients and fans would crackdown by suing them or boycotting their albums and concerts, they would stop that deceiving practice.

Would a famous singer tolerate a maid coming to their house and putting on a recording of a vacuum instead of pushing one around the house?

Of course not, they would fire them right away. So why are artists who lip-sync rarely held accountable?

Sometimes, lip-syncing is acceptable when it’s done for a specific or technical, purpose. For instance when a singer has to dance and sing at the same time.

Who expects Brittany Spears in her Las Vegas acts to sing every word for real when she’s tumbling in the air or jumping over a lion?

None of us mind if she sings the lyrics only while she’s safely standing on both feet. After all, who wants to watch Brittany Spears puking while she’s flying through the air because she choked on her tongue trying to sing upside down?


Or how about Miley Cyrus when she’s swinging and riding on that giant, yellow dildo as she does so eagerly in her concerts? Not many of us expect to hear anyone singing when they’re riding a giant dildo. Well, moaning maybe but not banging out a few bars.

Celine Dion once got sued for lip-synching by her drummer after he was released from her employ. She claimed in that lawsuit that, “In the past, we’ve used instrumentation and voice samples on the up-tempo numbers. This just gives the dance tracks a bit more punch to enhance the live performance, but I think that’s normal.”

Well, maybe and maybe not but I’ll refrain from arguing with Celine Dion about that.

So, mixing a live performance with a bit of lip-synching for technical or safety reasons may be acceptable. Or maybe if an artist is ill at the moment with a sore throat or a cold?

But for a whole song or a 2-hour, live show more often than not? That’s insulting to the concertgoer and isn’t very professional.

When you go to a live performance you want to hear and see, the singer singing to you. You want to see the emotional, expressions flash across their faces as their words of joy or sorrow reach your ears.

You want to see their physical movements matching with the lyrics, the mood and the tempo.

That’s what a live performance is all about.

Seeing a tear streaming down a singer’s cheek when they sing about a breakup proves to you that deep down inside they are truly feeling the story they are trying to harmonize.

It’s a genuine interaction between you and the artist that you won’t get with lip-synching. And that’s because they are too busy trying to stay in time with the recording.

It’s a cheap, trade-off that never works well for the performer or the audience and sooner or later they get busted.

You want their lips to match what’s coming out of their mouths. What’s more annoying than watching TV and the actor’s dialogue isn’t synchronized properly with their lips? I’ve turned off more than one TV show in my lifetime when I saw that happening. It makes you feel like your hearing is playing tricks with your eyes.

When you watch a singer lip-synching it takes all the integrity, sincerity and timing out of the performance.

And it becomes nothing more than a fake, representation of their talent, emotion and skill that you’ve come to enjoy.

And forces you to say suspiciously, “Is it live or is it Memorex?”


Joseph E Rathjen is a book author, blogger and a freelance writer.

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